Archive: london

Playful 2011

It”s but one week until this year”s , and all the arrangements are coming together. It”s going to be a great day filled with talks from a wide variety of fields from gaming to doodling to science fiction writing.

The one consistent strand is THE FUTURE – what is it? when will it get here?

We”ve got sci-fi author Pat Cadigan; app-maker Chief Wonka from Us Two; BBC Information Architect, Paul Rissen; Game Designer, Richard LeMarchand; Booming”s crazy social media provocateur, Marcus Brown; a doctor, a designer, more writers, and a load of illustrators.

The illustrators will be battling it out, doodling for their lives against each other in Sketch Tennis – our Overhead Projector and marker-pen inspired take in Coudal”s Layer Tennis.

We”ve also got a , selling the finest high-quality imported pencils, sharpeners and notebooks from the foyer of Conway Hall, where the conference is held.

The Playful 2011 Programme App
The Playful 2011 Programme App

Last year we printed a Newspaper Programme via Newspaper Club. This year we”re going digital and have made a for use on the day. There”s the programme, the shop, and speaker bios all navigable in a native-app like way, but without the rigmarole of app stores. This way we can keep everyone up to date with any last minute changes by updating the app live.

Victoria & Albert & Mudlark

We’re proper into museums. Not in a weird way, they just hold so much stuff inside to play with and explore. The amazing exhibitions and collections, when they hit that inspiration point, still only scratch at the surface of the deep well of connections and histories.

The web is changing that, but the web is something that museums aren’t – fast. Museums by their nature are slow and cautious. Slow so they don’t miss anything. Cautious so nothing breaks. Maybe.

The Victoria & Albert Museum (you know, that big one in South Kensington, London) are holding a Web Weekend to engage their Friday Late and weekend visitors with things that the web can do that they might not know about. We’re very proud to have been invited to add to the weekend.

We’ve got two things in there. They’re both web-based, but only one is manifested physically. Here’s an early version of it:



Chromaroma by Matt Watkins on Vimeo.

It’s a re-jig of all the journey data played out in Chromaroma since our launch. There’s more than 150,000 swipes in there. Visitors to the museum control where they want to explore in London via an iPad. When a visitor clicks on points on the London Underground map in front of them, the visualisation zooms to that location and shows all the journeys firing through. As well as wanting to re-use our Chromaroma data, we also wanted to experiment with a new web technology – Unity. The original Chromaroma visualisation, found on the game now, is built in Flash.

Unity is really interesting to us, both as a tool and a company. Their main mission is to “democratize game development” via an accessible tool that’s got the broadest platform coverage.

So the Chromaroma Remix is both an experiment in a new web technology, and a visual exploration into how a web-based game can engage travellers as they travel by offering missions and awarding points, and also after the fact via visualisations. We’re pretty sure that a version of this will be embedded in the V&A website very soon.

The folks at the V&A also asked us if we could make a game for visitors to play. Now, we think about museums and games a lot. It’s not an easy problem to solve. Ideally, we’d love to work with the online Collections, linking them to a simple puzzle or treasure hunt game. Something with broad reach. Unfortunately we had neither the time nor budget to do something like that, so instead we’re taking the opportunity to try something simple out – SCVNGR.

We’ve been playing with SCVNGR a lot. I’ve been using it to prototype some audio-tour/locative storytelling stuff. It’s got promise. A lot of museums are using it, so we thought we’d give it a go at the V&A.

There are ten tasks to complete – one in each of the ten first rooms that you come to from the Grand Entrance.

What’s going to be interesting is to see the take-up of a locative experience by a very broad demographic of people, with links to SCVNGR and instructions on printed material around the museum. It’s not often you get to test something in an environment like that.

The Web Weekend line-up as a whole is fantastic, and we’re honoured to be a part of it. If you make it to the V&A Museum this weekend have a play on our things and let us know what you thought.

FOWD and the Responsive Web

I went to FOWD last week in London where the brilliant Josh Clark made some mobile observations.

Josh openly debated the pros and cons of ‘native apps’ and the ‘mobile web’ — in a lot of cases an appropriately presented website wins. Here’s why.

Leaving gaming apps aside that make perfect sense to run natively for obvious reasons, ‘web apps’ are often perfectly capable of offering a great mobile experience. This makes sense when you draw from Ethan Marcotte‘s ‘Responsive Web Designer’ talk in which he covered CSS methods, flexible grids and images to provide a single destination that responds to the device the individual is using.

So by way of example, look at the AutoGlass mobile optimised website versus their app. What does their app offer over the web experience in this scenario?

To my mind, a ‘responsive’ website seems to make a lot more sense than encouraging people to go out their way to download a dedicated app or even to re-direct them to a seperate m. subdomain. It seems that today’s mobile web browsers aren’t being taken seriously (Do I need to mention HTML5 and CSS3? — technologies that give us locative capabilities and more). You can read Ethan’s A List Apart article on the the responsive web design topic here.

The word “App” has become somewhat of a buzzword. The constant bombardment of app-related marketing seems to have ingrained in us an ‘app culture’ since the explosion of Apple’s App Store. Every mobile platform seems to have jumped on the bandwagon, even Chrome as a web app store — but herein lies the problem.

Unless company x provides a great app experience that meets expectations on each individual’s chosen device, they risk leaving a proportion of their audience out in the cold.

I’d hedge a bet and say iOS is targeted most, and as a result I would imagine company x ends up spending their money, time and resources on just one platform. What I’m trying to say is: the web is universally accessible. Native apps are not.

This begs the question: Why make both?

Sometimes I think we seem to see our apps as “show-off-pins”. They act as pin badges — you show off your favourite apps to your friends just as teenagers pin up movie posters on their walls. They’ve become little digital fashion accessories for your phone, showing allegiances to the brands you care about.

Take a look at my quick responsive experiment here.